Recently, I reread Jesus’ parable of the tares and wheat when it came up again in a Christian Science Bible Lesson. He told the multitudes of people who had the benefit of hearing his unique message that it illustrated the nature of the kingdom of heaven. The ending of the parable has always intrigued me. The servants of the householder ask if they should go into the fields and gather up the tares (weeds) in order to protect the wheat crop. They are told not to uproot the weeds in case they pull up the wheat prematurely in the process. Let them grow together for now, and at harvest they can be separated out, at which time the weeds can be dispensed with properly (see Matt. 13:24–30).
To me this story symbolizes the value of patience, the importance of subjugating human will, and the wisdom of trusting God to do His own work. As I studied the parable it dawned on me how much I can continue to learn from it, particularly in regard to my relationship with my teenage son. When I look at him, I tend to see both the wheat (the good in human character) and the tares (the not-so-good), rather than only the good, which is his true nature. And that’s something I’m praying to improve.
I can remember when our son was a tiny baby and he was absolute perfection in my eyes, with not one blemish to any aspect of his character. As he grew, I began to notice in him more and more evidence of outside influences, not all of them good. They seemed like tares, which Jesus spoke of in the Bible, that were being secretly sown in the garden of my child’s thought (mine too, I’m afraid, since I was the one seeing them). The parable reminds me that it’s not my job to yank out the tares, but to continue to fertilize and water the wheat and to trust that the divine authority, namely God, will do the final separation of tares from wheat. In other words, as a loving parent it’s my job to value and encourage the good in my son’s character; not to be fooled into identifying him with the weeds.
Fear has a way of making us focus only on the “tares,” and then react to them.
Parental fear, however, tends to result in rash actions that can unintentionally uproot the good in our children. Fear has a way of making us focus only on the “tares,” and then react to them. Years ago I learned an important lesson about guarding against this tendency. My son was about five years old at the time. He was riding in his car seat in the back seat of our van. To be honest, I can no longer remember exactly what he said to me, but for some reason it upset me, and my overriding thought was to quickly whip the van around the corner, to dramatically hit the brakes, and to turn around and scold him. Just as I turned in my seat, we both heard a pop, followed by a loud hiss of air escaping from the rear tire. Apparently, I had run over the curb in my rush to show my displeasure with him, and I had damaged a tire in the process. We both looked at each other and burst out laughing. So much for Mom’s big moment. At least this incident managed to deflate the negativity, as well as the tire.
When Jesus healed the multitudes, he did not get irritated with sin and sickness, and he didn’t appear to focus on human personality. It seems to me that he was so keenly aware of God and His perfection that he could see only the good and perfect expression of God in everyone he encountered. Not that he was blind to mental propensities such as hypocrisy or ignorance or fear; he simply was not impressed by them because he knew divine Love to be omnipotent. Mary Baker Eddy put it this way in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “He understood man, whose Life is God, to be immortal, and knew that man has not two lives, one to be destroyed and the other to be made indestructible” (p. 369).
I prayed to trust our son to God’s care and to know that he could hear whatever instructions God was continuously giving him.
A few years ago, I had another opportunity to put into practice the spiritual lessons I was learning. The same son asked to return home from the boarding school he was attending. Frankly, I was concerned about the influence of his local friends. However, my husband and I felt that this should be our son’s decision, and we let him register at the public school for the following fall term. Meanwhile, I prayed to be free of judgment and human opinion. I prayed to trust our son to God’s care and to know that he could hear whatever instructions God was continuously giving him. Essentially, I was allowing the tares and wheat to grow together until God was ready for the harvest. About one week before the start of fall term, our son came into the living room and confessed that he had made a terrible mistake; he actually wanted to return to the boarding school. We packed his bags and drove him across country in time for school, and three years later he is now a senior at this school. God had done His harvesting and continues to do so. It is an ongoing lesson on my part to listen and trust.
Nancy Atkins lives in Eugene, Oregon.